DECEMBER---Guadeloupe to St. Thomas, USVI

December 1--anchored in Deshaies, Guadeloupe (pronounced Day-hay). Dehaies is a picturesque fishing village although is appears the village is fast becoming a major attraction for small cruise ships as one or two of them were anchored outside the bay every day we were there. In town there are several outstanding restaurants, several gift shops and a couple grocery stores. You clear Customs and Immigration via a computer at one of the gift shops! The best part of Deshaies--a young local entrepreneur stops by the anchored boats early in the evening to pick up orders for baguettes and French pastries for delivery the next morning. I tell ya this is living! Sitting in the cockpit at sunrise sipping coffee while eating chocolat pain. Yes, the pastries are not good for the diet but they are good for the soul. Deshaies has a nice walking path along the river but the the major attractions is the Jardin Botanical Gardens which we did not visit.

While anchored in Deshaies, Carl inspected our generator finding a leaky exhaust elbow. These elbow was rusted out a year ago---had it welded in Trinidad but over time it is starting to fail. Contacted the manufacturer and arranged to have the piece shipped to a friend of Lee's who is joining Lee and Sharon on ALLEGRO in the US Virgin Islands on January 1. Lee's friend agreed to carry the part on the airplane which is a big help to us.

We have been traveling with two boats ALLEGRO and HOOFBEATS since Rodney Bay, St. Lucia. VOYAGEUR C (Bill and Leona) was with also with this group from St. Lucia to The Saintes when they broke away to travel with BONANZA (Roy and Michelle) for a short period of time. All of five boats hoped to meet up at Montserrat where we do some volcano exploration! ALLEGRO (Lee and Sharon) have crew onboard--Kirby and Barry. Kirby will rent a car in Dehaies so he can pick up his girlfriend, Melinda, in Pointe-a-Pitre. Kirby and Melinda will sail with ALLEGRO to St. Martin. Barry will continue as crew until ALLEGRO reaches the US Virgin Islands.

One night in Deshaies, we sponsored a Mexican Theme dinner on DISCOVERY. Attending: Lee, Sharon and Barry (ALLEGRO); Sharon and Tony (HOOFBEATS) and Sharon and Bob (SHAZZA). Several years ago, DISCOVERY was anchored next to SHAZZA, a 46-foot Hylas, in the Bahamas. We did not get a chance to meet Sharon and Bob in the Bahamas so we took this opportunity to introduce ourselves and invited them over for Mexican Dinner. With so many people, our plan was to have half the guests eat in the cockpit while the other half ate down below in the main salon. However, a rainstorm rolled in just when it was time to eat so everyone ate down below. It was crowded but lots of fun.

One day I was sitting in the cockpit watching boats come in--spotted a boat from Grand Haven, Michigan. Later that day, I saw the woman in town so I introduced myself to Gail on GAIAMAR. Gail does a lot of single-handed sailing. She charters her boat, GAIAMAR out of the Caribbean and has another boat on Lake Michigan. Told Sharon on ALLEGRO about Gail and sure enough--Sharon and Lee knew Gail from the Caribbean 1500. So, the last night in Desahies, Gail joined the group for dinner at the MADRAS. It was at this dinner that Barry (ALLEGRO's crew) first met Gail---more to come on this subject later! Dinner at MADRAS was quite good but not nearly as good as the dinner we had at Les 3 Boats in The Saintes last month.

Below are pictures from Deshaies. The first picture is our "French Baker"--actually he only picked up orders and delivered product! The second picture was taken at Madras.

Sailed on a beam reach with 18 to 20 knot winds from Deshaies to Jolly Harbor, Antigua along with HOOFBEATS, ALLEGRO and GAIAMAR. Fishing lines were out for 25 nm---caught one fish just as Carl was reeling them in to get ready to anchor---a skipjack which was used to make some delicious fish tacos. Found VOYAGEUR C and BONAZA at anchor. Gail needed help launching her dinghy so Lee (ALLEGRO) sent Barry over to help and Barry never returned to ALLEGRO!!! Barry and Gail hit it off and continued to sail together until they reached the British Virgin Islands where both of them caught a flight back to the US. They have a lot in common---love of sailing, both from the wonderful state of Michigan and both have Moms living in Arizona.

This is our first visit to Antigua which is 14 miles long and 11 miles wide. The island's highest peak, Boggy Peak, on the southwestern side of the island has been renamed Obama Peak (1330 feet). This island loves President Obama. I found Obama Hot Pepper Sauce in the grocery store! Antigua became a British possession in 1632...African slaves were brought in for planting tobacco, ginger, cotton and indigo. Sugar plantations were established in 1674 growing in number until slavery was abolished in 1834.Antigua is an independent country along with two other islands--Barbuda (tiny coral island) and Redonda (uninhabited).

Hopped a bus that took us from Jolly Harbor to St. Johns where we transferred to another bus which took us to English Harbor. English Harbor was once an outfitting center for British warships of Horatio Nelson, Sir Francis Drake and Walter Rodney. Toured Nelson's Dockyard---this yard was originally called "His Majesty's Antigua Naval Yard", it only became known as Nelson's Dockyard after a major restoration project which began in 1951 and is still ongoing today (a previous restoration attempt in 1932 was abandoned). Construction of the naval yard at Nelson's Dockyard began in 1725. The dockyard in English Harbour was the headquarters of the British Leeward islands fleet during the late eighteenth and early and mid nineteenth centuries. Admiral Horatio Nelson served as a young Captain in the Caribbean Leeward Islands fleet for three years from 1784 until 1787 and during Nelson's period in Antigua the naval yard was greatly expanded. Nelson was the 26 year old Captain of HMS Boreas, based a the yard. The facility was closed down and abandoned by the British Navy in 1889. Nelson's Dockyard is a destination for superyachts and cruisers. It is filled with restaurants, gift shops, health spas and night clubs. From Nelson's Dockyard we walked over to Falmouth Harbor Marina where we walked the docks to gawk at the huge yachts both motor and sail.

When we returned to Jolly Harbor, we decided to re anchor moving closer up to shore in hopes of picking up a WiFi signal (with success). Stopped by VOYAGEUR C to see how they were doing. They planned to leave for Montserrat in the morning asking us if we wanted to go with. It was tempting to say yes. However, this was our first time in Antigua so we wanted to spend more time here. Leona contacted Chris Parker for the Montserrat weather forecast the following morning---forecasted winds were ENE to E around 20 knots so they decided not to go You see, the anchorage at Montserrat is quite open and is very poor when the wind is from the northeast or from the east at 25 knots or greater so the right weather is important. Meanwhile, I decided to do laundry. According to the guidebook, at Burton's Laundromat you can do it yourself or have it done for you. Sharon (HOOFBEATS) and I decided we would like to do it ourselves since we had our sundresses and a few delicates so we loaded up the laundry and went in. Do it yourself or done for you..... the same price Guess what--Sharon and I had the laundry done for us.

Tuesday morning, VOYAGEUR C and BONANZA decided to give up on Montserrat so they headed to St. Kitts. Sharon, Sharon, Kirby, Melinda and I took a bus to St. Johns for some shopping. There were 3 cruise ships at the dock so the town was hopping. Lots of shops selling jewelry and electronics. Had lunch at the restaurant recommended to us by VOYAGEUR C--I can't remember the name of the place---Cafe la bamba or something like that--anyway the food was excellent. Returned to the boats late afternoon just in time for an Oriental Theme Dinner hosted by Gail and Barry on GAIAMAR.

The next six pictures were taken in Antigua. The first picture is Tony and Carl sitting on the bench waiting for a bus to St. Johns. The next two pictures were taken in the Nelson Dockyard Museum---Admiral Nelson's bed and a china plate. The fourth picture of the Boat House and Sail Loft Pillars. The last two pictures were taken on the dock at Falmouth Marina a big yacht and notice its "garage" in the last picture which is full of water toys.

Enjoyed a very fast sail from Jolly Harbor to White House Bay, St. Kitts. Winds were almost directly behind us and the swell was pushing on the beam making it a challenge to steer. It was overcast with a few mild squalls. Carl caught another skipjack which we used for fish tacos. HOOFBEATS and ALLEGRO arrived shortly after we anchored. These two boats are bigger and faster than we are so we usually leave 60-90 minutes before they do. White House Bay was a very comfortable overnight anchorage.

Left White House Bay just before 7 AM. It is quite windy today. The sail to Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten was a close reach in winds around 22-25 knots and seas 7-10 feet. I knew the forecast before we left--expected conditions to be horrible. However, with two reefs in the main and the small jenny we had a comfortable and fast sail. I asked Carl not to fish because I didn't want to deal with slowing the boat down and fighting to get the fish onboard with these conditions. No argument on his part. Later in the morning, it seemed like things were under control so Carl put out one line---had one bite but it was gone before Carl could reel it in. Arrived in Simpson Bay around 2:30 so we anchored for two hours until the bridge opened. ALLEGRO and HOOFBEATS arrived about an hour after we did. All three boats entered the lagoon on the Dutch side (Sint Maarten) and motored over to the French side to drop the anchor. In the morning went over to the marina in Port le Royale to use computers for Customs & Immigration Clearance (and departure at the same time). Fell into a routine during our stay in St. Martin---go to the French side for baguettes or pastries while we access the internet, check out the shops and markets, get together in the evening for cocktails. One night we went to the Sint Maarten Yacht Club to watch the boats come through for the 4:30 PM opening of the bridge. Another night went out for dinner to celebrate Sharon's birthday (HOOFBEATS) --also in attendance was ALLEGRO, GAIAMAR and GYPSY BLUE (Rene and Cheryl). Went out to the airport to watch the Air France 747 land---the approach is over the beach so you can get real close. Wednesday night attended the Cruiser's Get-Together at the Turtle Restaurant seeing several friends we met in Trinidad (SPARROW, SPRING TIME, KRILL, SCORPIO). Hopped a bus late one morning to Phillipsburg for Christmas shopping and lunch.

Pictures from St. Martin. First picture is Carl at the computer completing clearance papers for Customs and Immigration---oh so easy. The next picture is Sharon, Sharon and I in a shoe store where Sharon bought shoes for her birthday. Picture three is Tony and Sharon at Sharon's birthday dinner. The next three pictures were taken at the airport. Wanted to see the Air France 747 land. First picture is me looking up at the plane as it approaches the runway with my hands over my ears. The next picture was taken to show the beach on the left, the road in the middle and the runway to the right. The last picture is a warning sign for all the tourists that come out to watch planes land and take off. When that 747 came over, it blew Carl's hat right off his head.


Attended the Cruisers Wednesday Get-Together at the Turtle Restaurant. The first picture is Gail and Barry (GAIAMAR) and the second picture is Dominique and Alex (SPARROW) who we met in Trinidad.


Curry dinner onboard HOOFBEATS. Does curry make you act silly?

I need to make a comment regarding winds and sailing conditions. November was such a mild month.....easy sailing with winds around 15 knot and relatively flat seas. Suddenly it became much windier in December with 20 knot winds and 7-10 foot seas. Two years ago we would have stayed in port when it was blowing over 20 knots but this year we completed three long sails in 8 -10 foot seas and winds 20 knots plus. Have to say that after awhile you get used to it.

Left St. Martin headed for Prickly Pear in Gorda Sound (British Virgin Islands). Cruisers like to make this passage in mild weather. Forecast was for 15 knots of wind out of the east in the morning by clocking southeast by afternoon with 5-7 seas. We left at 3:15 AM (60-90 minutes earlier than ALLEGRO and HOOFBEATS). This time, the two larger boats never gained on us. It was perfect sailing for DISCOVERY. The winds were 20 knots with gusts and held out of the east longer than expected so we were on a beam reach early and finally a broad reach. Fishing line out for 50 nm with a new doo-dad to attract fish but no bites. When Carl pulled in the line his new doo-dad was demolished. Looked like we would get rain but all the showers and squalls passed to the east of us. Pulled into Gorda Sound around 2:15 PM dropping anchor. A comfortable anchorage plus we could pick up a WiFi signal to check internet.

Expected a slow sail from Prickly Pear to Cruz Bay, St. John. Winds were forecasted to be south southeast at 10 knot or less but in reality 15-25 knots because there were squalls in the area. We sailed all the way to Caneel Bay then took the sails down and motored a couple nm into Cruz Bay where we dropped the anchor. Cleared US Customs and Immigration (Customs and Border Protection) and completed the paperwork for the Local Boaters Option which allows us to call in for clearance. Stopped at the grocery store in Cruz Bay for a few items then off to Francis Bay. Here we are in the National Park where mooring are $15 a night but with Carl's Golden Pass card it is only $7.50 a night. One morning, Tony & Sharon, Carl and I hopped onboard ALLEGRO for a motor over to Red Hook. Lee needed to see a doctor---that nasty burn from the motorscooters we rented in The Saintes the day after Thanksgiving was still oozing and not healing. While Lee went to the doctor the rest of us made a run to K-Mart to the AT&T kiosk to get a sim card. Back to Red Hook for lunch and internet time. We can pick up a weak signal over in Francis Bay which the other boats can't. Ended up returning to Red Hook on HOOFBEATS two days later---the guys had a list of part they wanted to pick up from an auto supply store so Sharon, Sharon and I brought our dirty laundry.

K-mart! Took the first picture of Sharon who had been standing in line for at least 15 minutes. She looks frustrated. The second picture is Carl and Tony looking over electronics. DISCOVERY is thinking about a notebook computer.

Christmas Eve, Lee (ALLEGRO) organized a dinghy raft-up. What is a dinghy raft-up? The crew hops in their own dinghy armed with an appetizer to pass and their own drinks. The dinghies meet in a designated spot and tie up together. Once settled, the appetizers pass from dinghy to dinghy. Toward the ends of the evening, a family (two children between 4 and 7 is my guess) in their dinghy singing Christmas carols. It was really sweet...they had Santa hats on and the young boy had a ring of bells that he was shaking. After the dinghy raft-up we went to bed. Just before midnight a squall came through. Carl and I were up in the cockpit checking things out. Suddenly one of the large motor yacht was dragging their anchor. They bumped into the boat at a mooring right in front of us. Carl told me to start our engine because the boat was still moving downwind. The motor yacht finally started making forward progress--its runabout tied to its port side ran over our mooring ball which means they were close. We were safe but the motor yacht's trouble was only beginning. They dropped their anchor in front of a large catamaran. The anchor did not hold so the motor yacht ended up hooking the cat's anchor so now two large boats were tied together in 30-35 knot winds. It took them two hours to get untangled--I sat up to watch and listen to inter-boat communication on VHF 68. What a night for them.

The next four pictures were taken at the dinghy raft-up.

Christmas morning I made some cinnamon rolls for breakfast and then went over to HOOFBEATS for smoothies. Christmas dinner was at the Maho Bay Resort. The dinner was great--turkey with all the traditional sides plus pie with whipped cream. I was fascinated with the resort so I did some research. The resort bills itself as a Luxury Campground or an Eco Resort. It has 18 tent-cottages on 16 foot square platforms. The platforms were connected by elevated walkways to avoid soil erosion which endangers the beach and fragile coral. Translucent fabric on wood frames, screened windows and open air terraces take advantage of the cooling island tradewinds. Each has a separate sleeping area with comfortable twin beds and and a sleeping-couch in the living area. Linens, blankets, towels, cooking and eating utensils are all provided, including propane stove and ice cooler. Every tent-cottage has its own private deck, electric outlets, lights and fans. Notice no bathroom in the tent--they are shared! Barbecue areas and fresh water are available along the walkways. Double occupancy is $135/night. You can cook your own meals or use the restaurant which I am sure gets expensive for families because the evening meals run between $17 and $23 per person. It does look like a cool place for a family to stay.

Christmas Day at Maho Bay Resort Restaurant the view and DISCOVERY's Captain & Crew.

On Boxing Day or the day after Christmas, HOOFBEATS headed for Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas. Tony has to return to the US to tend to some business for about 6 weeks. Sharon will stay on the boat which will be anchored. We decided we'd circumnavigate St. Johns! Motored to Coral Bay---it looked interesting in the guidebook. On our way, it was quite flat so we calibrated our autopilot's compass--it was way off. My plan was to anchor in Coral Bay for a couple days---taking the hiking trail that goes north to Leinster Bay. The plan changed--I wasn't too impressed with Coral Bay. It is a mangrove bay that is filled with way too many derelict boats and no place to land a dinghy so we left in the morning. Motored to Christmas Cove on the west side of Great St. James Island. Later that afternoon ALLEGRO came to Christmas Cove so we got together for a potluck dinner and a game of Mexican Dominos.

Sailed very slowly from Great St. James Island to Charlotte Amalie---downwind with only the big jenny out. ALLEGRO left about 30 minutes ahead of us. The distance is less than 8 nm and it took us two hours--easy going. Dropped our anchor not too far from HOOFBEATS. Sharon was so glad to see both ALLEGRO and DISCOVERY! Tony had just left that morning and she was already lonesome. Anyway, that afternoon we went over to the Yacht Haven Marina complex for internet, window shopping and a quick run to the grocery store. The next day, Sharon, Sharon and I did some laundry and I found a place to have my haircut--my big, fat ponytail will be sent to the US as a donation for a wig! Also watched the world's largest cruise ship come into Crown Bay---can carry over 6200 passengers!

Two pictures of Oasis of the Seas. There are 8 rows of passenger rooms with balconies (other cruise ships in Charlotte Amalie have 3-5 rows of balcony rooms).

December 30th the weather turned ugly here in the Virgin Islands. A coldfront that exited the east coast of the US penetrated south and east to the Virgin Islands and the northwest Leewards. With the cold front came 30-35 knot squalls with gradient winds around 20-25 knots. This weather stayed for over 48 hours before the squalls went away. So....New Years Eve we did not want to stay far from the boat. Had appetizers and wine onboard ALLEGRO (Sharon, Sharon, Lee, Carl and I). Everyone went to bed early but woke up for the 7 minute firework show. I was surprised they shot off the fireworks because it was blowing like stink and lightly raining. A good but quite short show.

Cocktails New Years Eve on ALLEGRO. Missing Tony who is in Tempe, Arizona.

Best Wishes for the New Year. May 2010 bring you joy, peace and happiness.

Submitted by:
Marilyn Thoreson
December 31, 2009